Cyber Law draft. Omits key offences like cyber stalking, ‘spamming’ and ‘spoofing’.

ISLAMABAD ( MEDIA)

The government is taking pride in finalising the first ever cyber law of the country but the draft legislation shockingly omits key offences like cybers talking, ‘spamming’ and ‘spoofing’.

The much talked about draft Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2014, finalised by the ministry of information technology (MOIT), also fails to address the issues pertaining to the verification of users, making it almost impossible to find the real culprits behind fake Facebook and Google IDs. The News reported on Tuesday.

Sources in the National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes (NR3C) told The News that international companies like Google, Hotmail and others had never cooperated with the Pakistani authorities for the verification of users involved in cyber crimes.

They said only Facebook responds to NR3C requests but that too in several weeks and only if a court order is produced.

“They are not bound by Pakistani laws but they have their own terms and conditions according to their country of origin,” said an official of the NR3C requesting anonymity as he is not allowed to speak without the interior minister’s permission.

Sources said country-to-country mutual legal agreements can result in overcoming these challenges as the servers of most of these international services are based in other countries.

Filthy and totally baseless campaigns are launched on a daily basis by the social media users against those who do not suit them, including the Prophet (PBUH), Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam and other credible persons. Abusive and ridiculous fake pictures of credible persons drawn by manipulating graphic design software is disseminated by the unscrupulous social media users. These people also make poisonous propaganda against Pakistan, other religions and spread untrue allegations of moral and financial corruption against those who do not fit in their frame of mind. It is shocking that the draft law does not propose any punishment for such perpetrators of immorality.

The draft law also ignores the ground realities and values of Pakistani society while ignoring the clauses on blasphemy and defamation.

The bill, formulated by MOIT in consultation with the law ministry, includes a provision on the protection of women but does not propose any punishment for persons involved in spreading blasphemous material or religiously offensive content on the internet.

The law even omits major clauses that were part of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance (PECO) 2009. A comparison of the proposed bill with PECO 2009 reveals that the draft law does not include clause 13 of PECO about cyberstalking which is today’s most common crime against individuals the world over and special laws have been framed by various countries to stop it.

The draft law which is expected to be presented before the federal cabinet this week also excludes Clause 14 and Clause 15 of PECO 2009 which deal with ‘spamming’ and ‘spoofing’.

When contacted, the spokesman of the ministry of information technology Yasir Qadir said the offence of blasphemy was not made part of the law to avoid over-criminalisation.

“Blasphemy is already a crime under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) so there was no need to mention that specifically in the draft law” he said.

He admitted that defamation is not mentioned in the law but maintained that the issue is covered under section 13 of the draft law.

However experts believe that a person sharing blasphemous content or anything hurting the religious sentiments of the community on the internet cannot be punished under the PPC as it does not deal with internet related blasphemy.

A study of clause 13 reveals that defamation or cyber stalking is not covered in the clause as it only deals with harassment of women on the internet.

While newspaper and TV channels have to face expensive defamation suits for levelling baseless allegations against any person or institutions, the new law gives a free hand to social media users to harm the reputation of any person or institution without fearing any legal repercussions.

According to former law minister and constitutional expert, Babar Awan, the old ordinance was better than the draft law which ignores major areas of concern for Pakistani society.

He said the area of electronic crime is empty for legislation in Pakistan and there is a dire need to cover three major kinds of offences in any new law pertaining to this area.

“Firstly, the new law need to cover crimes relating to personal injury like slander, defamation etc. It has been observed that people using the social media do not take any responsibility while posting negative and concocted facts against other people and institutions and the reputation of famous people and institutions is harmed just for fun,” he said.

Secondly, Awan said, the new law must cover injury to the religious feelings, faith and believes especially after the case of Danish caricatures which resulted in global outrage in the Muslim world and damage to interfaith harmony.

“Thirdly, the law must cover blackmailing, extortion, fraud crimes, ID theft and banking related crimes,” Awan said.

The former law minister said while the draft law partly covers the third part, it completely overlooks the importance of the first two major areas.

It is feared that the omission of cybers talking clause from PECO 2009 will result in encouraging those social media users who defame honourable personalities, institutions or companies for vested interest without any proof or responsibility.

Under Clause 13 of PECO 2009, the offence of Cyber stalking was punishable by seven years.

The term cybers talking usually refers to the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization. It includes the making of false accusations or statements of fact which is normally referred to as defamation.

In many developed states cyberstalking is a criminal offense that comes into play under anti-stalking laws, slander laws, and harassment laws. A cybers talking conviction can result in a restraining order, probation, or even criminal penalties against the assailant, including jail.

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